FDU Professor Matthieu Boyd Co-Authors First Translation of Influential French Poem of the Middle Ages

Book cover image of The Medieval French Ovide Moralise, An English Translation by K. Sarah-Jane Murray and Matthieu Boyd 


November 27, 2023 – Matthieu Boyd, FDU Professor of Literature and Chair of the School of the Humanities, and K. Sarah-Jane Murray, Associate Professor of Great Texts and Creative Writing at Baylor University, have just published the first translation into any modern language of one of the longest and most influential French poems of the Middle Ages, the Ovide Moralisé (Moralized Ovid).

Matthieu Boyd

Matthieu Boyd

In nearly 72,000 lines of verse, this anonymous fourteenth-century work retells Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a famed compendium of Greco-Roman myth, and offers a multilayered Christian interpretation that dwarfs previous attempts to do the same in Latin. As the translators explain in their extensive introduction, this text is a flagship demonstration of medieval mythographical thinking, a key strand in the history of ideas. The Ovide Moralisé intersects with many fields, including literature, theology, history, philosophy, Classics, and, since it survives in richly illuminated manuscripts, art history.

Initially funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the translation represents over a decade of work, including daily meetings on Zoom throughout the pandemic

K. Sarah-Jane Murray

K. Sarah-Jane Murray

“This is a text that was known to be incredibly significant, but that almost nobody today could read,” says Boyd. “Now they can. This publication opens up what we’re daring to call ‘the Divine Comedy of medieval France,’ as well as new avenues in Chaucer and even Shakespeare studies. This will reshape the canon of works that are studied, taught, and talked about. We can’t wait to see what new insights scholars and students will come up with now that they have access to the text, and we’re excited to share more of our own. We’re also working on an adapted version of the translation for the general public.”

Prof. Bonnie Wheeler of Southern Methodist University, one of the nation’s most distinguished medievalists, comments: “Matthieu Boyd and SJ Murray’s brilliant translation of this essential (and huge) high medieval text reveals for the first time to an Anglophone audience the complex absorption of Ovid’s classical thought into its Christian successors. This work will delight readers and it will spawn a wide range of future scholarship. It is a durable, massive addition to our cultural knowledge.”

Students at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Baylor University are likely the first in history to experience the Ovide Moralisé in English as part of their coursework.

The three-volume set, The Medieval French Ovide moralisé: An English Translation, is available in hardcover and ebook formats from Boydell & Brewer, internationally known as one of the leading publishers in medieval studies.

The FDU community can access the ebook via the library, at https://fdu.on.worldcat.org/oclc/1395180927.

All readers can follow along with the manuscript images referenced in the translation at https://www.rotomagus.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10102188w/f32.item

Boyd and Murray spoke about their work at Princeton University, at 4:30pm on Thursday, November 30:  https://humanities.princeton.edu/event/the-ovide-moralise-the-divine-comedy-of-medieval-france-4/.

Boyd will also speak on the Florham Campus to the Florham Institute for Lifelong Learning at 10:00am on February 21, 2024, in ZEN 135.

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